Manitoba elders say 2011 flood devastated lives, communities
First Nation evacuees continue to face mental health issues and suicide
It's been four years since a devastating flood hit Manitoba, but those who lost their homes and communities are still suffering, their families say.
Feelings of isolation, mental health issues and increased suicide rates are only some aspects of reality for those who were forced out of the life they knew, elders from four Manitoba First Nations said Tuesday at a gathering held to share their stories.
Marshall Ross says he misses being able to take care of his home.
"I'm getting sick of it now; nothing to do, just sleep and eat where I'm staying. I had my own house, I had a few things to do outside, cleaning up my yard," he said.
"She always talked about not wanting to leave her home," she said. "And she always talked about not wanting to go home in a coffin. ... That is how we had to take her home when she passed away on January 30th."
The gathering, which was organized by the health directors of Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Pinaymootang and Dauphin River, is first of its kind: Elders came specifically to talk about the effects flooding has on their lives.
"I always feel like the evacuees aren't being heard and I always refer to them as the forgotten people," said Gwen Traverse, health director for Pinaymootang.
Traverse says she hears of crises from evacuees on a daily basis.
"It's not going to stop once the communities go home," she said. "You're going to see more social impacts, more emotional impacts and currently that's what we're dealing with."
Pinaymootang's Garnet Woodhouse was the only chief in at the meeting.
While he says he's listening to what the elders have to say about moving forward, Woodhouse couldn't say where the First Nations are in negotiations with federal and provincial governments.
"There are a lot of outstanding issues like land, the loss of livelihood, fishing, hunting, even gardening. All those things; the culture," he said.
A number of elders say they want their leaders to take a stronger stance; protesting at the Manitoba Legislature and blocking provincial highways are examples of the action they would like to see.